All-Star game needs to lose home field advantage gimmick - East Valley Tribune: Sports

All-Star game needs to lose home field advantage gimmick

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Reach Kyle Odegard at (480) 898-6834 or kodegard@evtrib.com, and follow his blog at http://blogs.evtrib.com/varsityxtra, or on Twitter @Kyle_Odegard

Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 8:31 pm | Updated: 12:46 pm, Tue Jan 3, 2012.

The most memorable moment from Tuesday's Major League Baseball All-Star game came in the top of the eighth inning.

Padres closer Heath Bell was called on in relief, and he sprinted his 6-foot-3, 260-pound body from the left field bullpen to the pitcher's mound amid a sea of cheers, finishing off the performance with a pop-up slide before taking the ball from National League manager Bruce Bochy.

Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips buried his head in his glove, unable to stifle laughter. Catcher Yadier Molina shook his head in amazement as Bell gave him a playful punch.

"I saw (third baseman Pablo) Sandoval move out of the way and I had to do it," said Bell, who practiced the maneuver over the break.

Spontaneous moments like these are what make All-Star games fun, and it again shows that commissioner Bud Selig's attempt to orchestrate intensity isn‘t the way to drum up interest.

It's been nine years since Selig implemented the plan of awarding World Series home field advantage to the league that wins the All-Star game.

It began following the tie game debacle of 2002, and while the premise held some allure, it hasn't worked. What we were promised was a game in which the intensity rose and the players scratched and clawed for every out.

Instead, we can barely get them on the diamond. After 16 players withdrew for various reasons, it took 84 selections to fill out the rosters.

That's not an All-Star team. That's an all-aboard team.

Derek Jeter didn't come because his quest for 3,000 hits exhausted him too much. Aramis Ramirez declined because he had a family vacation set for the break.

The National League pitching dominated as expected in the 5-1 victory, and the bevy of American League starters that missed the game grew by one when Josh Beckett felt soreness in his knee and couldn't throw.

The undermanned A.L. may in fact be the better league, but in this situation, it wasn't enough.

Remember the ill-fated slogan, ‘This Time It Counts'? That won't be much consolation to the Red Sox or Yankees if the World Series tips on home field advantage this October.

"That's the point of playing the season," Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier said. "We play 162 games and you fight for those 162 games to get in first place and have the best record."

Baseball can be fluky, and those regular season games are needed to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Last season, the Phillies had the best record in the major leagues at 97-65, a winning percentage of .599.

In the NFL, the Patriots finished the year at 14-2 (a .875 winning percentage). In the NBA, the Bulls had a record of 62-20 (.756) and in the NHL, the Canucks finished 54-19-9 (.713).

In a seven game series, upsets are more likely in baseball than those other sports, which is even more reason to reward the World Series home field advantage to the team with the best record.

"I understand that (Selig) wants to make it mean something," Phillips said. "It's a good way to get fans into it and get players to work harder, but I think it's kind of crazy."

The players know what‘s on the line, but they still aren't willing to risk injury. Jose Bautista was thrown out at the plate in the top of the fourth inning on an Adrian Beltre single, but instead of colliding with catcher Brian McCann, he eased up and was tagged out without incident.

It was the right move, but it's another example contradicting the supposed intensity that this game is supposed to have.

Even Jay Bell wants a change, despite his role in one of the most memorable Game 7's ever.

The former Diamondbacks second baseman scored the series-winning run of the 2001 World Series against the Yankees on Luis Gonzalez's famous bloop single at then-Bank One Ballpark here in Phoenix.

New York had the better record that season, but MLB's equally-mind-numbing rule of alternating the home field advantage between the leagues happened to work out for Arizona that season.

Despite the lasting memory, Bell is on board to give home field advantage to the team with the best record.

"If you have home field advantage throughout the playoffs, why not have it in the World Series as well?" Bell said. "I'd love to see it. That would be great.

"Now it's up to you to go out there and make it happen."

I'm trying, Jay. I'm trying.

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